Tag Archives: Woodstock

Day 343: Baked Onions

Tonight I thought I’d make one of the recipes in the 1898 New Galt Cook Book that takes more time, a contrast to last night’s quick recipe. Mrs. Robertson of Woodstock’s recipe for Baked Onions requires several hours of periodic attention.

I picked out 2 onions, washed them and put them in some salted hot water. I left them to boil for a 1/2 hour and then drained and added more salted water. Again I left them to boil for a 1/2 hour. They were tender so I removed the pot from the heat. I guess I was supposed to change the water once more. Instead I drained them and placed the boiled onions on a towel while I prepared the tissue paper. I waited to make this recipe until it was the season for wrapping gifts so that I had easy access to tissue paper. I took two layers of tissue paper and buttered the inside. I wrapped an onion and twisted the top. Then did the same with more tissue paper and the other onion. I placed the wrapped on a baking sheet and baked them for an hour at 300 F. Then I took them out of the tissue and tried to peel them. They are challenging to peel since they are very soft and very hot but I managed. I got them into a frying pan and started browning them in a bit of butter. I didn’t bother serving them with melted butter since they were already very buttery. Once they were browned I took them out of the frying pan and was ready to taste.

Mrs. Robertson of Woodstock Ontario shared quite a few recipes so I’ve talked about her several times over this year and yet I’m not sure about her identity.

Baked Onions take several hours to prepare and its debatable whether it is worth boiling, baking, and frying the same onions but it is certainly unique. They come out very soft and mild but I kind of miss the onion flavour. I think the browning in the frying pan could be skipped. They were nice fresh from the oven since they were already a bit caramelized. The smell was wonderful and they reminded me a bit of roasted garlic (except for the flavour). The long slow baking in the oven transforms the onions in the same way that garlic is transformed. Today it is a bit expensive to prepare onions this way as it uses a lot of electricity. However, in the days of cook stoves used for heating the home, this would be a good way to prepare onions in the winter. The stove is on anyway and onions are a cheap and plentiful winter vegetable that must have become boring by the middle of the winter so this technique makes sense in that context. The flavour grew on me and I ended up eating both onions! Can you imagine eating two onions? You’ll have to use your own judgement as to whether this recipe times travels to 2014. It works but might not fit a modern lifestyle. Try it if you are curious and have the time to boil, bake, and fry over more than two hours.

Mrs. Robertson, Woodstock

Wash but do not peel the onions, boil one hour in boiling water, slightly salt, changing the water twice in the time. When tender drain on a cloth and roll each in buttered tissue paper twisted at the top, and bake and hour in a slow oven. Peel and brown them. Serve with melted butter.


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Day 337: Coffee Jelly

I’m still around coffee drinking family members so this afternoon I decided to make Coffee Jelly. The recipe was contributed by Mrs. Caldbeck of Woodstock for the1898 New Galt Cook Book. The recipe is one of the eleven recipes in the Jellies section of the cook book.

The brand of gelatine mentioned in the recipe.

The brand of gelatine mentioned in the recipe.

The first step was to determine the amount of gelatine I needed. The recipe calls for “one-half six cent package Cox’s gelatine”. Cox is a brand of gelatine but how big was a six cent package? I decided to base my decision on the amount of liquid that I needed to set with the gelatine. The Knox brand of gelatine box says one of their envelopes will set two cups of liquid so I decided to use 2 envelopes of gelatine dissolved in 1/2 cup of cold water.

One of the coffees advertised in The Canadian Grocers magazine in 1898.

One of the coffees advertised in The Canadian Grocers magazine in 1898.

I left the gelatine and water to sit for the required 1/2 hour while I made the coffee. As a non coffee drinker I avoid making it most of the time since I’m never sure how it will turn out. However, I thought I’d done a good job this time since it smelled like coffee and looked like coffee instead of beige water like the time I forgot to add any coffee grounds. I made sure I had 1 quart (4 cups) of hot coffee. I think I made it quite strong and then I added 4 teaspoons of sugar to sweeten it. I put the gelatine in a larger bowl and poured the hot coffee over stirring to make sure everything was well mixed and the gelatine was dissolved. I put it in the fridge to set. A few hours later it was set and I was ready to taste my coffee jelly. The rest of the family tried it after I returned home but I had a full tasting report by phone tonight.

Unfortunately I still don’t have a clear idea about the identity and story of Mrs. Caldbeck and that’s too bad as the woman shared some interesting recipes. Her beet salad and chicken salad recipes were very good.

Coffee Jelly with whipped cream

Coffee Jelly with whipped cream

My tasters had mixed reviews of Coffee Jelly. Imagine a coffee flavoured Jello instead of citrus or berry flavoured. If you don’t like the texture gelatine then I doubt this will appeal to you but if you are adventurous you just might have something new to try. I sampled it with some whipped cream and liked it despite not being a coffee drinker. My father had it plain and enjoyed it too. He noticed that it wasn’t very sweet which was fine with him. My father enjoys strong coffee — the kind where you can stand up the spoon– so perhaps that’s why it passed his taste test. My sister and mother did not like this dessert at all. They thought the coffee flavour was too strong, something that surprised even them since they enjoy a good cup of coffee. . My mother’s comment was that Coffee Jelly would be great at an adult Halloween party since it dark coloured and looks strange! Clearly the type and strength of the coffee makes a difference. The sweetness can also be altered when you make it. I think this is well worth trying again. It is quick, simple and unique.

Mrs. Caldbeck, Woodstock

One-half six cent package Cox’s gelatine soaked one-half hour in one-half cupful cold water, add one quart good boiling hot sweetened coffee, stir well and strain into a quart mould well rinsed in cold water. Serve with whipped cream.


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Day 328: Hashed Potatoes

I made myself a nice long simmering round steak with potatoes and other things. Opening a fresh bag of potatoes inspired me to make the Hashed Potatoes recipe in the 1898 New Galt Cook Book since I wanted to have some potatoes for supper. The recipe was contributed by Mrs. Robertson of Woodstock.

I boiled 6 potatoes but decided just to use 3 for this recipe. I had peeled them before I boiled the potatoes in salted water. I chopped them very small and added some salt and pepper. I used a bit of beef stock left from preparing the steak. I added some finely chopped onion as well. I mixed everything together and then melted some butter in a frying pan on top of the stove. When it was nice and hot I poured in the potato mixture and patted it flat in the pan. I assumed that the recipe meant the potatoes shouldn’t cook too fast so I kept the heat on medium. I didn’t have any idea how long it would take for the potatoes to brown on the bottom so I kept peeking. It took much longer than I expected and in the end I didn’t exactly have one solid mass of browned potatoes. Instead my peeking meant I’d broken up the potatoes quite a bit. In the end I had something resembling hashed brown potatoes. It was time to taste.

One of the best recipes I’ve made so far was contributed by Mrs. Robertson of Woodstock. I made her wonderful chocolate pie about a month ago on day 295 but I’m still not certain about her identity. She could be Jessie Fisher, a woman who was married to storekeeper George E. Robertson. However, there are several Mrs. Robertson’s in Woodstock in the 1890s.

Potato varieties in the Peter Henderson seed catalogue 1898.

Potato varieties in the Peter Henderson seed catalogue 1898.

There were many different varieties of potatoes available to the home gardener in 1898. It can be challenging today to find seed potatoes to grow and the potato varieties available at the grocery store are limited to white, red and Yukon gold (a newer type that didn’t exist in the 1890s). I buy white or Russets when I can find them both for my personal use and when I try historic recipes. It’s great when I get a chance to cook with heritage varieties but that opportunity doesn’t come along very often.

Hashed Potatoes are good even though I wasn’t able to make them exactly as described in the recipe. I really liked the addition of onion and the crispy bits of fried potatoes are one of my favourite tastes. The beef stock enhances the potatoes and makes them just a bit different from the usual fried potatoes.I’ll try making this again and I’ll try to be patient so that it cooks in a more solid piece.



Mrs. Robertson, Woodstock

Take six cold boiled new potatoes, mince them and season them with salt and pepper, adding a little milk, or a little stock, as you prefer. A scant half cupful of liquid is generally sufficient. Melt a tablespoonful of butter in an omelet pan and when the pan is very hot pour in the potatoes. Spread them evenly, and set them a little back on the stove or in the oven, well covered, to brown. When they are a golden brown on the bottom, fold them over like an omelet and serve. The addition of a little parsley minced or a teaspoonful of onion, gives a new zest to this dish.

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Day 295: Chocolate Pie

I’ve been struggling with what recipe to make tonight on a day when both Canada and my family are facing unexpected news. And yet, I actually find history comforting knowing that ordinary people have faced challenges of all kinds in the past and survived. The women I write about here lived in a world I can never truly experience no matter how many recipes I prepare from The New Galt Cook Book (1898). But we share the common need to feed ourselves and others. So, tonight I’m sharing a recipe for Chocolate Pie contributed by Mrs. Robertson of Woodstock. Chocolate anything is one of my comfort foods.

A coffeecupful is just under a cup so I grabbed the carton of milk from the fridge only to discover that most of it was frozen. I took the carton next to it which turned out to be cream. I used it anyway but I have to imagine I’m using very creamy milk to consider it a proper test of this historic recipe. The creamy milk went into a saucepan and I started heating it. Next I grated the chocolate using one square of Bakers chocolate and added it too. As it heated I separated 3 eggs and beat them into 3/4 cup of white granulated sugar. I slowly stirred the sugar and egg mixture into the hot chocolate milk. It quickly started to thicken so I removed it from the heat and poured it into a prepared pie crust. I’m a disaster when it comes to making pastry so I’m using the crust prepared by my ‘servant’ (the grocery store). I baked the chocolate pie for 30 minutes at 350 F. I skipped adding the egg white topping since I never seem to like them. Instead I removed the pie from the oven and tried to wait for it to cool but it looked and smelled so good. I ended up cutting and eating a warm piece of chocolate pie.

Mrs.  Robertson of Woodstock is elusive since there are several possible women married to men with the surname Robertson. She contributed a lot of recipes and when I’ve made her recipes earlier in the year I speculated that she might be Jessie Fisher, wife of George E. Robertson. She was born in 1841 in Scotland and came with her parents Alexander and Georgina to Canada around 1853. A few years later in 1860 Jessie married George E. Robertson. They lived in Blenheim Ontario and then moved to Woodstock where George had a store.

Mrs. Robertson’s Chocolate Pie is wonderful! I tasted the filling while it was cooking and it was basically a good chocolate pudding. I wasn’t sure if baking it in a pie would make any difference. It turned out to be an improvement. The top had a touch of crispness a bit like meringue and then the inside is creamy and soft and oh so good. This is a chocolate pie that tastes like chocolate. It is very sweet so it might be best to use a bitter chocolate. The cream of course gave it extra richness but I think it would still be great with milk. If you love chocolate this just might be a quick and easy way to get a hit of your favourite comfort food. A tiny slice is satisfying so this might make a great company dessert especially if you use a special pie crust. This is one recipe that time travels well. Perhaps George Robertson kept a good stock of chocolate in his store so that Jessie could make this recipe any time.

Mrs. Robertson, Woodstock

One coffeecupful milk, two tablespoonfuls grated chocolate. Heat chocolate and milk together, add three-quarters cupful sugar and the yelks of three eggs beaten to a cream; flavor with vanilla. Bake with under crust. Spread beaten whites on top.

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Day 291: Chicken Salad

It’s a bit of a dreary day and once again I’m making something that straddles that divide between summer and fall. I bought a stewing chicken at the market since there are several recipes in The New Galt Cook Book (1898) that require this ingredient. Best of all it could simmer all afternoon filling the house with good smells and then I could use the meat for recipes like Chicken Salad. I’m using the recipe contributed by Mrs. Caldbeck of Woodstock.

I put the chicken in large pot and covered it with water and left it simmering for a couple of hours until the meat was tender. I removed the chicken, saving the broth for other uses. I set the chicken aside to cool while I made the dressing.

I decided to make half the dressing recipe. I separated 3 eggs and put the yolks in a bowl. I added 6 tablespoons of melted butter and 1 1/2 tablespoons of white sugar. Next I prepared the mustard by putting 1 teaspoon of dry mustard with some boiling water.  The recipe isn’t clear about this but I think the word “together” should be water. I added it to the rest of the ingredients along with 1 1/2 saltspoons of salt and a pinch of white pepper. I mixed it well and then added 6 tablespoons of boiling vinegar. I don’t have the sort of tea kettle needed for this recipe but I have used them in historic houses. This is the sort of tea kettle that has a lid on top and a handle that will bend to the side. Basically what is needed is a double boiler so I put the bowl on top of a pot of boiling water. I stirred with a spoon and once it was thick I set it aside to cool.

Then I started to pick the chicken apart. Again I saved some of the meat for other uses. I measured my chicken meat (I used just the white) and cut up double the amount of celery. I had some local celery from the market. It was a nice dark green and not as watery as the usual celery at the grocery store. Again I didn’t worry about using a silver knife. This direction comes from the days before stainless steel when the metal of utensils would be affected by acidic foods and the metal could discolour vegetables like celery. I mixed the celery and chicken in a bowl, added some cream to the dressing and poured it on the salad. Time to eat!

Mrs. Caldbeck of Woodstock is probably Margaret and I think her maiden name is Harvey. I’m still not sure about her parents or birthplace but it is possible she is the Margaret Harvey listed in Waterloo Region Generations as the daughter of Irish born Arthur and Ann of Galt. I do know Margaret was born about 1846 and was married to Irish born George Caldbeck by 1881. The census that year shows the couple living in Woodstock with a young woman named Emma Harvey who I think is Margaret’s sister as well as a saleslady named Margaret Green. She likely worked in George’s business since he is listed as a merchant. I can’t find them in the 1891 census but in 1893 George is listed in a city directory at 451 Dundas street in Woodstock. His business is in the House Furnishings catagory. The next year the business, at the same address, is listed under the heading Dressmakers. In 1894 the directory includes the Caldbeck’s home address at 134 Riddell street, a home that appears to still exist.Then in 1900 a directory has the Caldbeck business under Dry Goods.

The 1901 census lists the couple plus Ev L Harvey. I’m assuming this is Evelyn Harvey and that she is Margaret’s sister. They also have a 42 year old servant named Mary Corbett in the household. Somewhere between 1901 and 1911 the couple move to Toronto. Again Emma Harvey is with them in their home on 128 Park Road as well as it looks like their domestic servant Mary Corbett moved with them too! George is a wholesaler.  Somehow George ends up dying of a cerebral hemorrhage in the Galt Hospital in 1917 and is buried in Peterborough. I think Margaret is still living at this point but I don’t know what happens to her.

Like the “dressing”for yesterday’s hot slaw, the dressing for Mrs. Caldbeck’s chicken salad is a sweet/sour egg and cream based coating. I liked this one and it goes well with the chicken. The amount of celery is the opposite proportion to what we see today where celery is included more for crunch. Instead this is a celery salad with some chicken. Be sure your diners know what to expectbefore offering them this version of chicken salad. I think it is a good switch for modern cooks since we tend to build meals around our meat instead of our vegetables. Of course the dressing is not calorie or diet friendly with cream, egg yolks, and sugar but you don’t have to use much in the salad.


Mrs. Caldbeck, Woodstock

Yelks of six eggs (beaten very light), twelve tablespoonfuls melted butter, three tablespoonfuls sugar, two teaspoonfuls mustard (mixed smooth with boiling together), three saltspoonfuls of salt, one saltspoonful white pepper. Mix all well together, then add twelve tablespoonfuls boiling vinegar; put in a bowl on the top of the tea-kettle, stir with a silver spoon till thick, when cold, and just before mixing with salad, stir in a cupful of sweet cream. Boil chicken tender, taking out all skin and bones; pick meat into small pieces; have the celery washed and dried with a cloth, and not sooner than half an hour before the salad is to be used. Cut celery into bis with a silver knife, mix with chicken and stir in dressing. Proportion, twice as much celery as chicken.

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Day 232: Almond Icing

I made a cake last night and thought it would be a good idea to try icing it tonight. The cake has almonds in it so I think Almond Icing would be a good complement. A woman in Woodstock Ontario named Mrs. Robertson contributed the recipe for the 1898 New Galt Cook Book.

Just as I cut back on the cake recipe, I’m going to reduce this recipe too. I’m cutting it to 1/3rd. I separated 1 egg and whisked it until it was very light. Then I whisked in 3 1/3 tablespoons of fine white sugar. Once those were well blended I added the 1/3 cup of ground almonds along with a drop of bitter almond. I stirred it and then started to spread on the cake. I cut a piece to sample.

Mrs. Robertson might be Jessie Fisher. She was born in Scotland in 1841 and was about 12 when the family emigrated to Scotland. They settled in Galt and it was there that Jessie married Duncan Robertson. They went to Woodstock. An 1894 city directory shows that Jessie is widowed and living at 514 Canterbury. I had a look at it via Google map and it looks like the house is still there. I have a friend who works in Woodstock so I’m hoping she can go and check it out. Jessie died in 1920.

As I took my first bite of iced cake I started to wonder if this was an icing that was supposed to be browned in the oven. I didn’t think it was a cooked icing but perhaps it is like a meringue and needs to be broiled. I decided to taste it “raw” and then judge. It is fine as is but could be interesting if it was toasted. It certainly enhances the almonds in the cake and I actually like it. Of course these days we don’t trust anything with raw eggs. Perhaps it could be made with pasteurized egg whites? I used ground almonds but chopped almonds would be better. Bitter almond can be hard to find. I get it in a little tiny bottle at a baking supply store that specializes in cake decorating.

Mrs. Robertson, Woodstock

Three eggs, whites, beaten light, one cupful blanched almonds, chopped fine, ten tablespoonfuls pulverized sugar; flavor with a little bitter almond.

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Day 211: Panned Eggs

I’m making Panned Eggs tonight because I needed to clean out a room to prepare for a tenant of the human variety rather than the feline. The recipe was contributed to The New Galt Cook Book (1898) by Mrs. Robertson of Woodstock.

Ad for Capers in The Canadian Grocer 1898

Ad for Capers in The Canadian Grocer 1898

I don’t exactly have a porcelain pie plate but I do have a small glass one so I’m going to use it. I buttered the pie plate and poured in some whipping cream. I hate eggs and didn’t want to waste them so I’m just cracking a couple of eggs in on top of the cream. I put some capers on each of the yolks and sprinkled some parsley on top. Finally I added some bread crumbs and bits of butter. I baked them in the oven at 375 F. for 15 minutes. The time and temperature are based on my previous less than successful experience making baked eggs on day 18. Once the eggs were brown on top and firm I removed the plate from the oven. Time to be brave and taste.

Mrs. Robertson of Woodstock remains a mystery because there are several possibilities. One of the more likely is Jessie Fisher, wife of George Robertson because her parents are Alexander Fisher and Georgiana Fyfe. One of her sisters is another contributor to the cook book.

Well panned eggs haven’t convinced me to like eggs but if you already enjoy this great food than panned eggs might be an interesting way to prepare them. They still taste like eggs but I do like the capers and the toastiness of the bread crumb topping. The capers go well with eggs and bread crumbs, butter and parsley are typical additions. I was surprised to see capers as an ingredient but based on ads and information in The Canadian Grocer magazines in the summer of 1898, capers were being imported just like olives and other sorts of pickled foods.

Mrs. Robertson, Woodstock

For “panned eggs” take a porcelain pie-plate, butter it, pour in thick cream enough to fill it half full, drop in some eggs (four or five) side by side; place on each yelk a few capers; dust over them some minced parsley and some fine bread crumbs, and put flakes of butter here and there. Place in the oven, and let the eggs get firm and slightly brown on top.

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